It’s that time of year again. Everyone is swimming, setting off fireworks, and experiencing the humidity. These activities are part of the summer season, but they can sometimes be hard on our ears and hearing.
If you’ve ever had swimmer’s ear, you know what pain is! Swimmer’s ear (or external otitis) refers to inflammation of the ear canal. Many people get this after swimming, but you can get otitis externa from other causes. Sometimes the ear canal will actually swell shut. Symptoms are pain, and hearing loss if the swelling is severe. It is very important to see an ENT if you are experiencing external otitis. The doctor will likely put a “wick” in the ear and soak it with antibiotic or antifungal drops. This wick could stay in for days or weeks in order to treat the infection. If you have external otitis AND wear a hearing aid, you will likely not be able to wear the aid until the infection and swelling is resolved.
As far as summer sounds go, fireworks can be the loudest! Professionally set-off fireworks are generally not the problem—it’s the amateur ones that can be dangerous. Even so, it’s good practice to always wear hearing protection anytime you are setting off or watching fireworks.
If you are a racing aficionado, be sure to take hearing protection to the racetrack. Sound levels at the track reach dangerous and damaging levels even when you are sitting at a distance from the track itself. Be sure to protect little ones’ ears, as well. Adult-size hearing protection devices will not generally work on children. Try to find pediatric protection or even better—don’t take your children to the track!
Outdoor concerts can also damage hearing. Even if you are sitting way out in the lawn, you should be wearing hearing protection. I once tested a little boy who had attended his first concert. They were outdoors, and on the lawn, but he experienced ringing in his ears and hearing loss right after the concert. I tested him the following Monday, and he had indeed experienced permanent hearing loss in both ears. He will also suffer from tinnitus for the rest of his life. His case is a little extreme, but everyone is different. It is better to err on the side of caution.
If you have to shout to be heard in a noisy environment, you should probably be wearing hearing protection. Hearing protection is inexpensive and easy to find. Foam earplugs will suffice for most noisy activities, and can be found in grocery stores, drug stores and home improvement stores. Ear “muffs” can be found in home improvement stores. Combining muffs and plugs will give the greatest amount of noise reduction.
If you wear hearing aids, you may experience static if it is humid outside. Humidity can get into the openings of hearing aids easier than liquids can. Symptoms of moisture in your hearing aids include static, intermittency, or complete failure. If you have hearing aids with tubes, you should check for water bubbles in the tubes. Drying jars, as well as electronic drying machines are available if you experience this problem. If you happen to get your hearing aids wet, take them off, open the battery door, discard the battery and gently dry them with a hair dryer set on low.
Several manufactures are currently using a form of nano-coating on hearing aids. This coating covers not only the components inside but also the actual device to help protect against moisture. It acts as a liquid repellant and helps in maintaining the devices’ functionality. Signia has developed a hearing aid for those who lead an active lifestyle. The Aquaris is a waterproof hearing aid that performs well in the water, repels perspiration, and is both shock and dust resistant.
~ Susan Rardin, M.A., F-AAA